History of Art and Architecture

Between Wonder and Omen: Conjoined Twins from Constantinople to Norman Sicily

Tuesday, March 28, 2023 - 4:00pm to 5:45pm

Presenter: Roland Betancourt, University of California Irvine

Location: To Be Determined

In the year 944, two wonders arrived in the city of Constantinople from foreign lands: First, a textile that had Christ's face miraculously imprinted on it, known as the Mandylion. Second, male conjoined twins from Armenia. In this talk, Pr. Betancourt will focus on the depiction of these twins in a historical chronicle known as the Madrid Skylitzes. He will show show how the multifaceted meanings of the conjoined twins operated in the context of imperial rule, political intrigue, and religious authority across the text’s Constantinopolitan origin and the manuscript’s eventual illustration in Norman Sicily.

Roland Betancourt is Professor of Art History at the University ofCalifornia, Irvine, and is an expert on the Byzantine Empire, including itsart, liturgy, and theology, with an interest in issues of sexuality, genderidentity, and race. His work also looks at the uses of the medieval pastin the modern world, from its abuses by the far right to its representations in art and popular culture. Dr. Betancourt is the author of three monographs, Byzantine Intersectionality: Sexuality, Gender, and Race in the Middle Ages (Princeton University Press, 2020), Performing the Gospels in Byzantium: Sight, Sound, and Space in the Divine Liturgy (Cambridge University Press, 2021), and Sight, Touch, and Imagination in Byzantium (Cambridge University Press, 2018), as well as several edited volumes. His popular writing on the Middle Ages has appeared in The Washington PostScientific AmericanTIMEThe ConversationLiterary Hub, and The Advocate.